“Special Spaces” Makes Home a Special Place for Patient from Stony Brook Children's Hospital
Non-profit organization’s work is featured in national TV broadcast on the Today Show
STONY BROOK, NY, September 19, 2013 – Special Spaces will always have a special place in the heart of Gina and Gene Gentile of Selden.
The non-profit organization transformed the Gentiles’ home into a very special space on Sept. 10 to benefit her eight-year-old son, Gianni, who is being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (ALL) at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Their work was featured on the Today Show on Sept. 19 and included several celebrity workers who contributed to the home makeover: Al Roker, Natalie Morales and Willie Geist.
Gianni’s room and the rooms of his siblings were transformed in a single day by a group of Special Spaces volunteers who came from across the country and worked feverishly to transform Gianni’s bedroom using an “Ironman” theme in a single day. Gina said the idea came from when Gianni awoke from a procedure to implant a central line in his chest at the hospital and said, “Look, Mom. I’m Ironman.”
But Gianni wasn’t the only family member to receive attention that day. The rooms of each of his siblings also received “mini makeovers.” Nico, age 2, received a Yo Gabba Gabba motif in his bedroom, while Adrianna, age 5, has a Princess and Justin Bieber theme. Lucas, 15, had his room decorated with an arts and music theme featuring his own artwork.
The workers set up shop and worked on the home while the family enjoyed a day riding in a limousine, with go-kart rides and a restaurant meal, before returning home for the big “reveal.”
“He loves it,” Gina said of his son’s reaction to his newly decorated room. “He spends hours in there. He doesn’t like anybody to go in there now.”
Special Spaces has been creating dream bedrooms for children since it was started in 2004 in Knoxville, TN. The organization now operates in 35 locations across the nation, including a Long Island chapter, and has created more than 300 bedrooms.
“Whatever the child can dream or imagine, we create in just one day with a team of contractors, electricians and volunteers,” said Jennifer Swain, Executive Director and Founder of Special Spaces.
Gianni, a third grader at Hawkins Path Elementary School, has been treated at Stony Brook University Cancer Center since he was first diagnosed with ALL in June 2012. He is expected to complete his course of treatment under Laura Hogan, MD, Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, in 2015.
Gianni said he thought the makeover project was “cool” and seeing his new bedroom made him “happy.” His mother was more effusive in her praise.
“I think what they do is amazing,” Gina said of Special Spaces. “They actually put their heart and soul in it. They don’t do this for selfish reasons. They do it because they care.”
Caption: Gianni Gentile, age 8, of Selden enjoys his new “special space” bedroom, decorated in an Ironman motif.